Garrison Diversion


Agricultural Irrigation

Garrison Diversion’s roots are in agriculture and, though we are now a multipurpose project, we have not forgotten our roots. Garrison Diversion continues to invest in agricultural initiatives throughout the state, such as our partnership with NDSU Extension Service and the North Dakota Irrigation Association to develop, expand and enhance irrigation efforts.

Garrison Diversion is committed to protecting family farms, the communities that come together around them and the people who have come to depend on agriculture for the opportunity to live and work in North Dakota. The availability of reliable, high quality and affordable water can help families stay on the farm and not only survive, but prosper. A carefully managed water supply offers opportunities for farm families and rural communities to build better lives for themselves.

floating irrigation pumpsThe promised irrigation projects in the original Garrison Diversion Unit project did not materialize; however, the potential that irrigation holds for building a healthier North Dakota remains as strong as ever. Through several initiatives, Garrison Diversion works to develop and enhance irrigation in North Dakota.  The benefits that North Dakota sees as a result of crop irrigation are numerous.

There are 75,480 acres authorized for federal irrigation development in North Dakota and we continue to work with individual producers and irrigation districts to expand the number of acres under irrigation.

The combination of field trials at the NDSU Research site and actual irrigation operations at the Oakes Test Area provide a wealth of important data to develop best management practices for irrigated agriculture in North Dakota, the United States and the world. The increase in direct farm income, the economic opportunities for communities in rural areas, and the resulting increases in tax revenues all strongly justify the effort to develop new irrigation in North Dakota and to enhance existing irrigation opportunities.

North Dakota Irrigation Association
We also work with the North Dakota Irrigation Association and support their mission to strengthen and expand irrigation to build and diversify North Dakota’s economy.  As the interest for irrigation rises in North Dakota, the irrigation association is working to develop irrigation opportunities. If the enormous variety of agricultural activities that happen here in the heartland have anything in common, it’s water.

McClusky Canal Irrigation

The McClusky Canal is a major feature in the Garrison Diversion Unit Principal Supply Works. The canal is approximately 74 miles long and carries water from Lake Audubon to the west side of the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area. Based on the Garrison Diversion Unit legislation in 1965, the canal was designed to carry 1,950 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water for irrigation of 250,000 acres, as well as to provide water for municipal and rural water systems. 

McClusky CanalA promise of the original legislation, authorized irrigation development has been reduced numerous times with changes in federal legislation. Currently, the McClusky Canal service area is authorized for a total of 23,700 acres of irrigation. Canal-side irrigation is authorized up to 10,000 acres and the adjacent Turtle Lake area has 13,700 acres authorized. 

In an effort to utilized the authorized acres along the McClusky Canal, Garrison Diversion has been working with producers since 2010 to expand irrigation development. Currently, there are 11 irrigation projects along the McClusky Canal irrigating nearly 8,000 acres.

A benefit to producers irrigating from the McClusky Canal is the promise of project pumping power, a reduced rate of pumping the water out of the canal. Project pumping power is part of the promise from the federal government in return for flooding thousands of acres of prime farmland to operate and build Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea.

Garrison Diversion has secured two long-term contracts to assist irrigators; a water service contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and a power contract with the Western Area Power Administration.

The Reclamation contract is a 40-year contract with the United States government through Reclamation to provide irrigation water using the McClusky Canal. The contract ensures access to canal water until at least 2051. It is the first long-term irrigation water service contract signed by Garrison Diversion and Reclamation since the project was first authorized.

United States Bureau of Reclamation


Please contact Ryan Anderson with Garrison Diversion at 701-652-3194 or via email at 

Irrigation Master Plan

Garrison Diversion developed an irrigation master plan identifying the long-term vision for future development of the McClusky Canal. Because the canal is authorized to irrigate 18,000 more acres than are currently being irrigated, the irrigation master plan is an important step toward using the canal to its full potential.

Garrison Diversion will use the irrigation master plan to guide the future development of the McClusky Canal and ensure family farmers continue to have access to reliable, high-quality, and affordable water to allow their farms to grow and prosper. The irrigation master plan will help regionalize the central supply works, which include pump stations, power, and transmission lines to serve as many irrigators as possible at the lowest possible cost.

NDSU Partnership

A Valuable Partnership with North Dakota State University

Garrison Diversion partners with the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service by providing funding to support their initiatives. The NDSU Extension Service receives funding from Garrison Diversion to support the NDSU Oakes Irrigation Research Site, the NDSU Extension Service Irrigation Specialist position and the NDSU Extension Research and Outreach Program.

Oakes Irrigation Research Site (OIRS)

The Oakes Irrigation Research Site was established in 1970 on approximately 20-acre tract of land 4.5 miles south of Oakes, North Dakota. The NDSU Extension Oakes Irrigation Research Site tests varieties of plants under different growing scenarios. Studies of test plots of crops such as cabbages, peppers, tomatoes and common crops grown in North Dakota, provide producers with information for more efficient crop production and best management practices.

The research site helps provide information which contributes to the successful planning and operation of irrigated agriculture throughout North Dakota. Using creative growing techniques and carefully controlled irrigation, these highly profitable crops can be grown in North Dakota without government subsidies. With continued study and cooperation with farmers and developers, North Dakota will be able to supply markets all over the world with both raw produce and processed food.

Since the origination of the research site, 20 acres of land has been leased from the Robert (Bob) Titus family in Oakes for the irrigated trials.

In 2013, Garrison Diversion and the NDSU Agricultural Experiment Station began working on plans to update the facilities for the OIRS.  Due to the outdated nature of the site, the OIRS was in serious need of major upgrades and improvements in order to continue irrigation research at the high level anticipated from the site. The desire to expand the site to 40 acres was also expressed.

In 2014, the process was started to lease an additional 20 acres of land from Robert (Bob) Titus to expand the OIRS to 40 acres.  In 2015, in order to secure land ownership for the future, Garrison Diversion purchased five acres of land from Bob Titus.

In order to ensure irrigation research would continue for many years into the future, Bob and Elsie Titus deeded the land leased for the OIRS to the NDSU Development Foundation in their life estate. The Robert Titus Research Farm was dedicated on August 20, 2015, in recognition of Bob Titus and the gift he has given to the agriculture community and the State of North Dakota.

The OIRS is now known as the Oakes Irrigation Research Site – Robert Titus Research Farm. The name of the site has changed, but the invaluable data procured from the research site will continue to benefit farmers and irrigators for years to come

Irrigation Research and Outreach Program

NDSU Extension’s Irrigation Research and Outreach Program distributes research data and results to farmers and other interested parties. Distributing the study results of successful growing techniques of traditional and non-traditional crops grown in North Dakota means more profitable and stable farms and a better agricultural economy for the state.

North Dakota Irrigation Specialist

The Irrigation Specialist, an experienced NDSU extension agent, carries out the responsibilities of the Irrigation Assistance Program, an agreement between the Bureau of Reclamation, Garrison Diversion, and NDSU. The goal of the program is to provide educational and technical assistance to individual producers and other groups regarding the effective utilization of soil and water resources in irrigation.  Another effort is to enhance education efforts in North Dakota focused on irrigation and related business development. 

Responsibilities of the Irrigation Specialist include working with irrigation organizations to assist in the development and expansion of irrigation in North Dakota.  The Irrigation Specialist promotes the production, processing, and marketing of high value crops, as well as develops education materials, workshops, and tours related to irrigation. The Specialist works closely with researchers to identify irrigation research needs in North Dakota.